5 Must-Have Citizen Self-Service Features for Your Municipal Website

Written by Deb McNew

How much time do you spend each day answering citizen questions via phone, email, or in person? An hour? Two hours? You likely already know how you’d spend that time if you could have it back. You’d finally have time to start that project you’ve wanted to get to for months. If you’re wishing your citizens could self-service more of their needs online, freeing up more of your day for additional project work, you’re not alone. Your citizens want the same thing. 

A survey commissioned by Nuance Enterprise found that 67 percent of respondents would prefer to self-service their needs, rather than speak to a representative. If citizen phone calls and walk-ins account for an unsustainable part of your work day, your municipal website may not be giving citizens the self-service tools they want and need. We’ve compiled a list of the five must-have citizen self-service features for your website. If you’re not offering these features today, it’s time to reconsider your website content management system (CMS).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This feature may not be a surprise, but too often citizens can’t find a website’s FAQ section, it doesn’t exist, or it doesn’t meet their needs. 91 percent of the Nuance Enterprise respondents said they would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs. You know the most frequently asked questions received across your administrative departments. Make sure your local government website includes a prominent FAQ feature that is easy for your website administrators to manage.

A Document Management Tool

Your citizens have a right to on-demand access to transparency documents via your civic website. From meeting agendas, to financial reports, to meeting minutes, if your transparency documents aren’t easy to find on your civic website, you can expect to receive phone calls and emails from citizens asking for assistance. Make sure your citizens can quickly and easily navigate to a well-organized online document repository within your civic website. Landsdale, PA for example, links directly to its Transparency Portal and OpenGov Financial Reports directly from its homepage.


Online Payments

According to data from electronic payments company ACI Worldwide and research firm Aite Group, during the third quarter of 2016 56% of survey respondents reported they paid their bills online, and most report paying via billers’ websites. Your citizens want to be able to pay their utility bills from your civic website. They’d also prefer to pay for community activities online at the time they register. Make sure your municipal website gives your citizens a secure, and convenient online payment option. It will save you both time and effort processing transactions.

Civic Tip: Forty-six percent of U.S. consumers report having made a mobile payment—proof your citizen engagement strategy with a CMS that is optimized for mobile.

Activity Registrations

If your community offers a variety of citizen activities throughout the year, the easiest way for your citizens to find, register (and pay), for activities is directly from your civic website. Make sure you are offering citizens an easy to navigate activity feature that encourages registrations and streamlines your event management activities. For example, San Luis, AZ encourages citizens to sign-up for artistic classes, like Flamenco dancing and piano lessons.


Custom Notification Subscriptions

Not only is it important to maintain a civic website that allows citizens to easily find the information they are seeking and complete transactions on-demand, it’s just as important to proactively share updates and information with citizens on the topics that matter most to them. By integrating a notification subscription tool into your civic website, you exponentially enhance your ability to engage citizens in meaningful ways.

Allow your citizens to receive a notification every time an event has been added to your community calendar, or when job openings have been posted, or when a potentially disruptive event has occurred, like a power outage or a water main break. The ability to receive direct notifications on the topics that matter most will reaffirm for your citizens that your civic website is a source of reliable, current news and information.

If you’re wondering how well your current website meets the self-service needs of your citizens, start with a third-party performance review. This free report will tell you how your current local government website performs in such areas as mobility, missing files, popularity, and search engine results.

 Free third party website performance evaluation report